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Risk assessment: How secure is your operation?

Whether it is a building, an office or a warehouse – nothing’s possible without safe working conditions. Particularly in today’s world, where the pace and demands in companies are increasing, efficient occupational safety and foresighted accident prevention are essential. Employees must be protected against hazards and health risks. The basis for this is the risk assessment. We tell you what is important for this central element of occupational health and safety.


The legal requirements

What companies must do to protect their employees at work is regulated in the Occupational Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG) and in Regulation 1 of the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV). The DGUV is the umbrella organisation of the commercial employers’ liability insurance associations and the accident insurance funds. The legal framework is clear: All employers must carry out an appropriate risk assessment for all workplaces in their company. The details are regulated by § 5 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. There you will also find an overview of the factors that can lead to a hazard:

  • design and furnishing of workplace and workplace,
  • physical, chemical and biological effects,
  • design, selection and use of work equipment, in particular of working materials, machines, devices and installations, and interaction with these,
  • design of work and production processes, work sequences and working hours and their interaction,
  • insufficient qualification and instruction of the employees and
  • psychological stress at work.

Practice: When do you need to check?

Risk assessment is not a one-off matter. It must always be done when new workplaces or workstations are set up. An assessment is also required when new machinery or other work equipment is brought into the establishment. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has compiled further details in its Paper on risk assessment. What is obvious should not be forgotten at this point: If defects are found during the assessment, these must be eliminated!

To carry out the risk assessment

If a risk assessment is pending, some general rules must be observed. This includes, for example, including all work processes in the company in the audit. What else you should consider:

  • Proceed systematically so that you do not overlook any possible danger.
  • If you discover a potential hazard, clarify immediately how it can be eliminated.
  • If the workplace is not stationary and there are possible hazards due to local conditions, e.g. on construction sites, a risk assessment is also required.
  • As an employer, you must document the entire assessment process.
  • Employees should be involved, works and staff councils have a right of co-determination when it comes to the selection of assessment methods.

An example: Risk assessment for hazardous substances

If hazardous substances are used in your company, you must first carry out a risk assessment. The individual steps then look like this:

Step 1: Create overview

You list all hazardous substances used, together with the quantity and type of these substances.

Step 2: Evaluate risk

You record which jobs are affected. You also determine how employees may come into contact with the hazardous substances.

Step 3: Establish safeguards

You provide the necessary protection, for example through clearly defined work processes. If necessary, you must make structural or technical changes. Hazardous substances must be stored safely in all cases. Personal protective equipment for employees may also be required.

Step 4: Implementation of the measures

You create an action plan and provide it with time specifications.

Step 5: Check regularly

You check at fixed time intervals, i.e. about once a year, whether the protection of your employees is still guaranteed. If not, the hazards must be eliminated.

Step 6: Document everything

You keep a written record of the individual steps and results of the risk assessment and update the document after each new assessment.

If you adhere to this procedure, you will follow the process laid down in the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the other statutory regulations. But above all, you will ensure the health of your employees!

Training and consulting

CEMO offers training courses and comprehensive consulting services in the field of risk assessment. Are you interested? We will be happy to advise you, just contact us by phone at 49 7151 9636-0 or by mail to kontact(at)cemo.de.

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